Nearly 7,000 Israelis and Palestinians held an alternative Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, April 17, organized by the Bereaved Families Forum and Combatants for Peace.
The overflow crowd was far beyond the capacity organizers had prepared for, and a significant portion of the participants was forced to stand or sit on the ground. The Israeli-Palestinian memorial event was held outdoors in HaYarkon Park after the initial venue for the event, an auditorium in the city of Holon, backed out claiming that the event was “political.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to reverse his decision to bar entry to Israel to 110 Palestinians who were scheduled to participate in the ceremony. Last year, the Israeli army also refused to grant permits to the Palestinian participants, so a parallel event was held in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.
This year’s speakers included Adi Kahlon, whose father architect Dov Chernovoda was killed in a suicide bombing in Haifa; Dr. Amal Abu Sa’ad, whose husband, Yaqoub Mousa Abu Alqee’an, was shot and killed by Israeli police in the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran; Jihad Zriar, whose son, Alaa, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in Hebron on his way to his grandfather’s house; and author David Grossman, whose son, Uri, was killed in the Second Lebanon War.
Grossman said: “We Israelis, even after 70 years — no matter how many words dripping with patriotic honey will be uttered in the coming days — we are not yet there. We are not yet home. Israel was established so that the Jewish people, who have nearly never felt at home in the world, would finally have a home. And now, 70 years later, strong Israel may be a fortress, but it is not yet a home.”
“And when the prime minister defames and incites against human rights organizations, and when he is looking for ways to enact laws that bypass the Supreme Court, and when democracy and the courts are constantly challenged, Israel becomes even a little less of a home —for everyone.
“When Israel neglects and discriminates against residents on the fringes of society; when it abandons and continuously weakens the residents of southern Tel Aviv; when it hardens its heart to the plight of the weak and voiceless — Holocaust survivors, the needy, single-parent families, the elderly, boarding houses for children removed from their homes, and crumbling hospitals — it is less of a home. It is a dysfunctional home.
“And when it neglects and discriminates against 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel; when it practically forfeits the great potential they have for a shared life here — it is less of a home — both for the minority and the majority,” he added.
Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), seated among the attendees, told the Website 972, “This ceremony and its participants present an alternative to the policies of violence and evil. This is the true hope and opportunity for peace.”
Beyond the police cordon, however, far right-wing demonstrators cursed at and called participants “traitors.” Several right-wing demonstrators attacked participants as they entered, throwing stones and bottles. Police arrested at least one right-wing protester.